Monthly Archives: April 2017

Photo Credit: Afternoon Tea Parties by Susanna Blake, photos by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)

 

On the occasion of my 150th post, I would like to thank you all for your kind and generous comments since I started this blog last August.  When I started it I had only vague ideas what I would write about, but it would seem that those of you who read my blog regularly enjoy the topics I choose.  So here’s to the next 150 posts!

It would be impossible to visit each and every one of you to thank you personally, and so for this post I thought it would be nice to invite you all to a virtual afternoon tea party!  Furthermore, I would like to present each of you with a virtual bouquet, it’s no less than readers who call here regularly deserve!

Afternoon tea is a lovely English tradition.  It says in my book Afternoon Tea by Jane Pettigrew, “The innovation of the mid-afternoon indulgence called ‘afternoon tea’ is accredited to Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford. In fact, she did not ‘invent’ the ceremony, but simply gave it a name that settled it as a four o’clock social occasion at a time when the pattern of mealtimes was changing. 

When tea first arrived in England in the mid-17th century, it was taken as a settler at the end of dinner, a large, heavy meal that lasted four or five hours from noon to late afternoon.  By the early  years of the 19th century, this huge meal had shifted to around 7.30pm or even later, leaving a long gap between breakfast and the evening repast.  Only light refreshment was provided at midday by the newly invented luncheon, or ‘noonshine’. 

And so the Duchess found it pleasing and convenient to serve two or three hours before dinner, as well as (or instead of) after the meal.  Indeed, Anna Maria found ‘afternoon tea’ so essential to her daily routine that when she visited friends in their castles and palaces, she took with her a silver kettle and other tea equipage along with her trunks and hat boxes.”

Well, friends, I don’t expect you to bring along your trunks and hat boxes, but to come virtually prepared for an afternoon feast.  The cups and saucers are ready, and some glasses for some sparkling wine to add a little fizz to the proceedings or elderflower cordial if you would prefer …

Afternoon tea should always start with the tea itself, and it’s nice to serve at least two kinds – I serve Earl Grey and a light Indian blend, and offer slices of lemon and a jug of milk.  

Once the tea has been handed around, for we are seated on low chairs and sofas (high tea is a different meal entirely, but I might write about that another time) I will hand you a small plate and a napkin(never to be referred to as a ‘serviette’ in my hearing, please!)  I sometimes have white cotton ones, but more often I use paper tea napkins, which are so pretty.  Paper napkins are socially acceptable.

Here come the sandwiches …

Photo credit:  Afternoon Tea by Susannah Blake, photographs by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)

 

This is an occasion – we are not having a bite to eat while doing the gardening – and so you won’t be served ‘doorstep’ sandwiches.  I prefer to cut the sandwiches into ‘fingers’ with all the crusts removed. Finger sandwiches are elegant and the sandwiches should be large enough for two or three bites; not so small they are insignificant, nor so large they require a knife to cut them. 

Traditional fillings are combinations of cream cheese & smoked salmon; smoked or unsmoked ham and mustard of chutney; egg & cress and, of course, cucumber. 

Cucumber needs preparation.  I peel and slice it finely early in the morning and then lay the slices on thick layers of paper kitchen towels and sprinkle with some salt, and then sandwich together with another thick layer of kitchen paper.  You will need to change the towel fairly regularly throughout the morning as they will become soaked with the water from the cucumber, but doing this certainly improves the sandwiches and prevents the water that was in the cucumber from making the bread (white bread for cucumber sandwiches) soggy. 

Sometimes it’s nice to serve something savoury, especially in autumn or winter, say anchovy toast or small cheese scones filled with watercress …

Having enjoyed your sandwiches, here are the scones, with blackcurrant or strawberry jam.  In Devon we put the clotted cream on the split scone first and then top it with jam. In Cornwall they reverse this, putting the jam on first.

Photo Credit:  Afternoon Tea by Susanna Blake, photographs by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)

 

If you have room, I now have cake for you.  How about lemon sponge?

Or perhaps a Victoria sponge filled with raspberries and cream?

 

Or a slice of fruit cake?

I hope you are all seated comfortably?  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to invite you to the Ritz …

Afternoon Tea by Jane Pettigrew (The Ritz Hotel, London; Victoria & Albert Museum) (Pitkin)

 

But I hope you have enjoyed your afternoon tea and will return home, to all corners of the globe, whether you live in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, America or from wherever you have virtually travelled today.  I wish you a safe journey home and perhaps you might wish now to have an afternoon tea party of your own, a real one, to which you invite your friends from your own neighbourhood.  There are wonderful books available on the subject of afternoon tea and here are mine …

Keep the food simple, you don’t need to serve astonishingly intricate cupcakes, indeed the more traditional the better (and cupcakes are not an English tradition.) 

Thank you so much for coming, I hope you have enjoyed virtual visit!

Speak again soon.

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This will , I think, be quite a long post, so perhaps it might be best to get a cup of tea or coffee before you start reading.   I have a cup of tea beside me as I’m writing.

Did any guess where we were going from yesterday’s clue of the van which was in front of us as we drove along Torquay sea front?

We were destined for Living Coasts, a local Sea Life Centre.  We had recently bought an annual pass for Paignton Zoo  and this pass also entitles us to visit Living Coasts (again, as many times as we like.)

The coastal promontory that Living Coasts occupies was, from the 1930s to the 1970s, the site of the Marine Spa (a ballroom, winter garden and swimming pool). 

I apologise for this poor -quality photo of the Marine Spa which is taken from a photograh within  Living Coasts.  In the 1930s the interior looked like this (below) not that I remember it from then!  How lovely it looked with ladies seated in basket chairs, all wearing hats – of course, in those days you were not properly dressed unless you wore a hat! – and taking tea, no doubt. 

This beautiful building was, sadly, demolished in the 1970s to make way for Coral Island, a leisure resort, and that itself was demolished in 1997 to make way for Living Coasts. 

Below is an aerial photo taken in 2003 of the then-new construction.

Living Coasts is an innovative coastal zoo and aquarium where visitors can take a journey around the coasts of the world and see animals in naturalistic habitats.

Habitats have been constructed to be as natural as possible, for cliff-nesting birds there is a cliff, for wading birds, a pool and sandy beach, and so forth

Not only is Living Coasts a unique attraction, it is also a conservation and education charity and part of a group of zoos, including Paignton and Newquay.  It was officially opened in July 2003 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne.  Since then it has continued to grow and evolve into the unique attraction it is today. 

Although we had passed it many times on our walks and drives around the Bay, we had never been inside.  Word of mouth was that is was “full of penguins and little else!”  We found that this most certainly wasn’t the case and we were pleasantly surprised at how much there is to see.

The area might be relatively small but, through imaginative and careful design, much has been included and without making the area seemingly cramped.  We spent an hour there and loved every moment.

In the background the lower of the two white buildings is the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and above it is a smart block of flats built perhaps in the 1950s but in 1930s Art Deco style.  It is difficult to see but large metal supports hold up fine-mesh metal netting of this large aviary.  The grounds have been landscaped and there are trees, shrubs and flowers, softening the hard landscaping. 

In the first pool above, basking on a rock, is a South American Fur Seal (a great lump which looks more like a huge furry slug!)

Living Coasts is the UK’s only coastal zoo which is home to a variety of marine species from around the world including  seals, penguins, otters, and fish.  And, because these animals, fish and birds are safe from predators, they have  become almost tame, birds sitting on fences just inches – let alone feet – away from visitors (however, visitors are politely instructed not to touch the animals, not only because of safety to themselves and the animals, but also because they to not wish the creatures to interact with humans; in other words, these are wild animals and birds, they are not pets.)

A posing seal!

Through carefully designed enclosures visitors can see animals both on land and underwater.  We particularly enjoyed seeing the seals underwater and were amazed at their speed and agility! The award-winning aviary reaches 19 metres at its highest point and the aquarium tanks have a total capacity of 1,214 cubic metres.

 Husband having a close encounter with a seal

Common Octopus (‘stuck’ to the side of the tank) Snake Lock anemone, Lion Fish

My photos of the fish are not good as this area is rather dark with only the creatures in their tanks well-illuminated.  Other fish, birds and animals include Pied Avocet, Spectacled Eider Duck, Silver Moony fish, Atlantic Mudskippers, Asian short-clawed otter, Macaroni penguin, Oyster catcher and many, many more.

As well as the exhibits there is an attractive shop selling all kinds of animal- and fish-related gifts, a children’s play area, and a café.   We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will certainly go there again. 

* * * * * *

When we left Living Coasts we were ready for lunch and so decided to walk over to Le Bistrot Pierre. There are lots of eateries in Torquay, but we just happen to like Pierre’s, it isn’t expensive and there is always something on the menu we know we will enjoy.

To reach Pierre’s we retraced our steps across the harbour bridge (photo yesterday) and then walked through what is known locally as Rock Walk (Royal Terrace Garden) which is parallel to the sea front.

 

 

The Rock Walk is only a narrow strip of land at the foot of a cliff face, but it has been beautifully laid out, and the ‘mulch’ over the soil is made up of shells, which reflect the light.  It has a Mediterranean feel to it, with agaves and also (not photographed here) the occasional olive tree. 

And finally, lunch in Pierre’s.  We both chose the same dish from the Prix Fixe Lunch:

Poulet Printanier:  pan-fried chicken breast with asparagus, fricassee of wild mushrooms, peas, truffle oil and tarragon. This came with a selection of vegetable, small potatoes, braised red cabbage, broccoli and roasted carrots, followed by …

Frangipane:  Warm baked pear and raspberry frangipane with vanilla crème fraiche and toasted pistachios.

We sat downstairs on this occasion (photo above) with a table for two next to the high bar-table.  We really enjoy our meals here, the beer is good, the meals are good and not expensive, the staff are pleasant without being overly-familiar and it’s spotlessly clean. It also has a lovely view of the sea. What more could one ask for?

We then walked back to our car, drove home and had coffee and spent the rest of the afternoon reading the papers and our books.  All in all, although the weather had clouded over by the time we returned home,  we had had a lovely morning and lunch.  We will certainly visit Living Coasts again.

* * * * *

This morning, Friday,  we went to Waitrose for our shopping and returned not only with nice things to eat but also nice things to read (the copy of The Daily Telegraph is our daily paper, collected from our local shop):   a free copy of The Times (for holders of My Waitrose cards who may have a paper of their choice), the new Waitrose monthly magazine, The Waitrose Weekend newspaper, and the latest copy of Country Living.  I don’t usually buy this magazine but I thought I’d treat myself for a lovely weekend read.

Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you have a lovely time and I hope you have enjoyed a virtual visit to Living Coasts.

Speak again soon.

 

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This post is something of a teaser … it is an interim post between yesterday’s post about books and tomorrow’s in which I will tell you where we went today.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d show you some of the lovely places we passed on our way to our destination today.  We parked our car along the sea front and this was the view directly opposite where we parked.  It was bright and sunny with a gentle breeze.  We walked to the harbour and crossed the harbour bridge.

I can’t quite recall how long there has been a bridge cross the harbour, between the inner and outer harbours (the outer harbour is now a marina, or rather a boat park as I prefer to call it … you can tell I’m not a yachty!)  I think it has been there roughly 20 years.  There is a sluice so that the water remains in the inner harbour even at low tide – it used to be just mud when the tide was out.   Here you can also see the Big Wheel which comes to Torbay each summer (and yes, we have been on it, but not this year.) 

As we walked across the bridge, the Western Lady ferry arrived from Brixham …

It is very inexpensive to go on the ferry, just £2 will get you to Brixham, across the Bay, which I think is very reasonable. 

We then made our way to Beacon Cove, to see if we could see a friend’s boat ‘parked’ in the marina there … we think we spotted it but then, to us, one boat looks much like the next. A bit like seagulls, but I’m sure seagulls can see differences in each other, so perhaps yachties can spot their own boats, ha ha!

On the bottom right of this photo you will see one of the ancient embarkation ramps that were built in 1943 for troops and ships to embark on their epic journey to France on D-Day, 6th June 1944.  And close by, a plaque on the wall (always with wreaths which have been placed there) commemorates this historic area of Torquay …

I love the Regency buildings in the background, they are so pretty with their wrought ironwork. 

Right.  Here’s a clue …

Tomorrow, all will be revealed … Coming soon, to a screen near you!

Speak again soon.

6 comments

While researching the subject of butterflies for an article I am about to write, I happened upon a new series of recently published books.  They are marketed as “museums that are open all hours”, with collections, in Animalium, of more than 160 animals for visitors of all ages, with explanations on how they have evolved.  ‘Visitors’ can see inside the dissection laboratory and discover the great variety of habitats on Earth. 

Meanwhile, Botanicum houses an extraordinary collection of plants and fungi from tiny algae to trees that tower up to eighty metres high. We learn how such plants have evolved and how Earth has the diversity of plants life we see today. 

Yes, they are books, but the concept of the virtual museum is, I think, an interesting and an imaginative one.  The books have been produced mainly with children in mind, but as the books say, they are for ‘visitors’ of all ages. 

My knowledge of both the animal and the plant kingdom is scant. Yes, I’ve watched the programmes of Sir David Attenborough since he went on his Zoo Quests in the 1950s, and I watch Gardener’s World even though I still don’t know how to prune plants correctly.  I find it hard to recall my biology lessons where we learned about the parts of a flower, calyx and stamen and so forth, but would I be able to point them out?  I don’t think so.  As for animals, I’ve no idea, for example, what the differences are between turtles, tortoises and terrapins!  Therefore, for me, these books are a splendid introduction, even at my great age, to life on planet Earth. 

These virtual museums have been ‘curated’ by Katie Scott and, in Animalium, Jenny Broom and in Botanicum, Kathy Willis. 

Katie Scott is illustrator of Animalium and it was chosen as the Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Year 2014.  She studied illustration at the University of Brighton and, it says in Botanicum, that she “is inspired by the elaborate paintings of Ernst Haeckel.”

Jenny Broom studied at the Slade School of Art in London and has written several books for children.

Kathy Willis spent 25 years researching and teaching in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and now has two jobs:  as the Director of Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and as Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford. 

I have only shown some of the many wonderful illustrations here, and none of the explanations, which have been pared down to be readily understandable, not only for children but also for those of us whose knowledge of flora and fauna stops and starts with looking after our pets and tending our gardens. 

I am absolutely enthralled by these two books and I understand there is a further one in the series on History – I will be having a virtual look at that today and maybe adding that to my collection-of-two!

It is coincidental that last week we bought a season ticket to the Zoo and yesterday these two gorgeous books arrived.  Am I turning into a zoologist/biologist in my latter years? After all, there is now no retirement age, I might have a whole new career path ahead of me! (Only joking!)

These books are published by the Big Picture Press and they are as the press name suggests, large format, approximately 28cm x 38cm.  I think they would make wonderful Christmas or birthday presents for children of any age, including those in their second childhood.

Boxes of complementary postcards have also been produced – I just might be tempted by those, too.

Speak again soon.

 

 

 

4 comments

 

I love my visits to my hair salon.  I have been going there regularly for around nine years. Indeed, I started going not long after my hair stylist opened her salon and next month she and her staff celebrate the salon’s tenth anniversary.  I hope to attend that special day. 

So what do I like about this particular salon?  For a start, the very high standard of professionalism that the owner, herself an accomplished hair stylist, has set and which her lovely staff uphold.   But along with the professionalism of all the staff there is a warm and friendly atmosphere.   All the staff are skilled in their own particularly specialties and not only that, they serve the most wonderful coffee from a proper Italian coffee machine!  What’s not to like?

Here is a photo I took, just a snapshot, a few years ago.  The salon hadn’t been tidied specially for this photo, it is always tidy and spotlessly clean.  This morning I mentioned to my stylist (the owner of this establishment) how much I liked the mirrors and she explained she had had them specially made, the glass supports for the mirrors have all been moulded in one piece and parts of them have been cut and formed into shelves.  They are truly elegant and even a decade later they still look modern and, dare I say it, cutting edge!

I must have been to countless hair salons in my life, from when I was a child going with my mother, attending one in a lovely hotel in Torquay,  to a small salon in our local town, but somehow I was never totally happy with how the stylist at the previous salon did my hair; it was OK, but when you’re paying serious money every five weeks, OK isn’t really good enough, is it?

One day I happened to be in another town, not that far away, and was passing my present salon and without stopping to cogitate too long, I walked in and made an appointment.  That was, as I say, almost 9 years ago.  

As my hair has been grey for a few years now, not the silver or white which I wouldn’t mind, but what I call galvanized dustbin grey, I have my hair highlighted about three times a year.  As I have my hair very short this means the time-consuming process of ‘cap’ highlights which, today, with most people having highlights effected by the use of ‘foils’, might seem a little old fashioned, but when cap highlights have been executed well, nothing looks nicer, as the highlights look more natural.  Well, I think so.  This photo, below, was taken by husband when I came home today. 

I am delighted with both the cut and the silver grey colour.  I have been using an ash blonde eyebrow pencil (from Vyes Rocher) but will start using my usual soft grey pencil again, I think.  My eyebrows never grew back properly after chemotherapy, more than ten years ago, but light feathery strokes with a soft eyebrow pencil seem to work well for me.   I quickly wrapped around the silk scarf as it’s one of my favourites, but it isn’t one that I usually wear with this particular blue/white dress, I just added it for a splash of colour, and I like the soft look of a silk scarf for photos.  This scarf was from Crew Clothing, as was the dress (not to be confused with J Crew, the American company).

I really enjoyed my visit to my hair stylist’s today and I now look forward to my next visit in five weeks time.

Do you enjoy visiting your hair salon?  Or do you trim your hair yourself?  Do you colour your hair yourself, or have it professionally coloured?  Are you happy to be grey “as Nature  intended” or do you cover the grey?  Or, like me, to you try and enhance the grey, rather than fighting it? 

Speak again soon.

 

 

 

31 comments

Anyone who has been reading my blog since I began writing it last August will be aware of how much I love flowers and how our home is seldom without them.   But I am not a flower arranger, someone who has studied the art of floral artistry.  I see flowers I like, ones which I think will enhance the rooms in our home, buy them and then usually pop them into a vase (glass or ceramic) and position them in the sitting room, hall, kitchen or bedroom. I do know a few basics, such as dark colours should be at the centre of an arrangement with paler shades on the periphery, and always (if possible) have odd numbers of flowers in an arrangement, three, five, seven, and so forth. 

But rules are there simply as guidance, rules in floristry can be broken. 

I think the best way to learn how to make the most of a supermarket bunch of flowers is simply to observe how flowers in the homes which have been photographed for magazines have been arranged.  Taking flowers out of their cellophane and simply plonking them in a vase – often one of the wrong shape or size – isn’t really good enough.   Indeed, you don’t have to be particularly skilled or require any special equipment, just an eye for colour and proportion to make a humble bunch of flowers look really attractive.

I’ve started this post with one of my favourite photos of flowers in our home, a simple bunch of pink tulips in a glass water jug in our sitting room, taken some years ago.  Very often the most simple arrangement is the best.

This book once belonged to my late uncle who, with my maternal grandfather, lived with us as part of our family.  I have no idea how he came by it, or why he didn’t have Volume 1!  It was published by the Coca-Cola drinks company in 1941.  It is difficult to imagine that the company (at the height of World War II) considered publishing a book on flower arranging in order to publicise their soft drinks company, but they did.  Volume 1, so it says in the Introduction, cost 10 cents per copy and a million and a half copies were distributed and, “In response to this enthusiasm and to the thousands of requests for another book on the same subject, The Coca-Cola Company presents Volume 2 on flower arranging for home decoration.”

What I find interesting in the photos in this slim paperback book is seeing how tortured flowers were in those days!  They were wired and formed into shapes almost cruelly in order to look beautiful!   Yes, the arrangements are clever, a great deal of thought has obviously gone into the containers and the settings of each arrangement, but they are as different from how we ‘do’ flowers today as, well, chalk is from cheese. 

A lot of the arrangements have a vaguely Oriental look to them, I think.

Fast forward seventy years to Jane Packer’s lovely book At Home With Flowers, also in my collection.

Jane Packer is one of Britain’s foremost floral artists and, it says in the book, “is renowned for her fresh and unpretentious style.”  Here are some of the lovely arrangements which have been photographed for this book …

And a few years ago, I also made a more humble arrangement with Cornflowers …

Not quite up to Jane Packer’s standard, but I love the mixture of alchemilla mollis and cornflowers in this old Fortnum & Mason tea tin (I had a glass container for the water inside the tin.) And here I really should’ve had the cornflowers, the darker shade, at the heart of the arrangement with the alchemilla mollis on the periphery!  But we all make mistakes!

I rather like the idea of using old (and tarnished) silver trophies as containers …

And managed a very small arrangement of my own, using two golfing cup replicas which had belonged to my parents and what I could find in the garden that day …

Not a good photo as they were on the windowsill in the study, and photographing anything against the light isn’t easy.

I especially like this simple arrangement for a hall (below) in Jane’s book . White with vibrant vermillion, echoed in the bag nearby …

And in our hall, apricot roses in a simple cut glass vase …

And finally, a bedside posy in Jane’s book …

And a posy in our bed sitting room, flowers from the garden and placed in a floral jug; a medley of colours in flowers, jug, and cushion …

I hope I have inspired you, even if you profess to not being good at flower arranging, to look out different containers, and how you might even place similarly coloured objects close by, to echo the colours and/or style of the flowers. 

The green of this catalogue and the William Moorcroft dish complements this arrangement of chrysanthemums while (below) a lavender-coloured book spine complements the lisianthus.

Speak again soon.

8 comments

This morning we awoke to brilliant blue skies and sunshine.  Husband, up early, went for the paper and after returning cooked scrambled eggs on toast for us which he brought for me in bed, so I was able to have a quick look at the paper, eat my breakfast and drink my coffee before getting up.  Above, is the clematis montana as seen from the patio doors in the study. 

When I eventually emerged,  showered, dressed, etc, husband was already mowing the grass. I can’t call any of our grass “lawn” as it’s not bowling-green quality, but all grass, once it’s had a trim, looks infinitely better, a bit like a carpet when you’ve given it the  once-over with the vacuum cleaner.  He’s mown the front grassy banks, and also the back garden, and the strip of grass at the side of our house, too.  All now neat and tidy, and he’s even weeded a small flower bed beneath the hall window, an area which, sadly, is often neglected as we simply don’t remember it!

Husband worked hard in the garden while I did some deadheading and swept the terrace where we have our table and chairs outside the summerhouse.  Unfortunately, I’m simply not able to do all that much gardening because of arthritis, but I do what I can, even if it’s only small jobs. But I did lots of washing (or the machine did lots of washing!) and hung-out-clothes-to-dry while the sun was out. I  also took some photos of the tulips which are now looking so beautiful (as I was taking them, the sky clouded over and now it’s very grey and dull and very much colder.)

 I always say I will keep the details of those I’ve bought (all from Sarah Raven) but I never do, and can never remember their names. 

These pale pink ones, two pots of them, are by our back door.

The two pots by the back door are pastel green, and these pale pink tulips look lovely in them.

We recently bought this acer, and intend to grow it in a pot so that we can feed it the necessary ericaceous compost.  It won’t be in this pot, above, as it’s plastic; I intend to buy a ceramic pot for this rather expensive purchase (it comes with a 2-year guarantee, rather like a TV or washing machine!) 

Yesterday, I made two fish pies (one is in the freezer) so we had one for our lunch. It was lovely to be able simply to pop one in the oven (I don’t have a microwave, nor do I want one) without having to do any cooking.  Dessert was a simple fresh fruit salad.

I must explain that the black grains on top of the fish pie isn’t dust but black pepper! 

Now to make a cup of tea and after have another read of the paper, and then back to Jean Trumpington’s memoir (mentioned on Friday’s post) which is very readable – those whom she didn’t know in the society of the day might be easier to recount rather than those whom she did know!  This is my kind of Sunday (the work can wait until tomorrow!)

I hope you are also having a restful Sunday, or if not restful, at least doing things you enjoy.  Speak again soon.

 

6 comments

The plan was to remain at home today, gardening, cooking, cleaning, anything but most certainly not going out.

So we went out. 

We decided to take our charity shop items which had been steadily accumulating over a few weeks to our favourite charity shop in Wellswood, a rather pretty area of Torquay, about a mile from the harbour.  Here is a collage  (above) of the area, which has a village atmosphere, these photos having been taken at various times of the year, hence some with daffodils and some with autumn leaves.

I really love this charity shop. Well, it styles itself a ’boutique’, and rightly so when you see some of the lovely things it has for sale.  And the window displays are wonderful. Today, one window had everything to do with baking, books on how to make cupcakes and pretty retro-looking tins, all kinds of pretty things. I just wish my photographs could do their window displays justice but there is always a lot of reflection on the glass.  Here is the left hand window …

and here is the right hand window …

I wish you could have seen the dress in peacock blue, black and brown, unusual colours to put together, but it was gorgeous, believe me.  And how beautifully they have displayed these clothes, with flowers and accessories in complementary colours.  I  had a quick look in the shop while husband disposed of some books and other bits and pieces, but didn’t find anything I really wanted or needed (not the same thing!)   I certainly didn’t need anything but had I spotted something beautiful, I might’ve wanted it, ha ha! 

We then popped into the Co-operative (for those outside the UK, a chain or supermarkets that started life in Rochdale by the Rochdale Pioneers, where customers became ‘members’ and gained dividend on what they purchased, i.e. it was a co-operative, owned originally by the members) and I bought an Extra Mature Cheddar and Jalapeno loaf.  I have to say that Co-op bread has been a revelation to me.  I’m not keen on supermarket bread, but the bread we buy in the Co-op is excellent (their own bread, I mean, not other producers’ bread), especially their Ancient Grains wholemeal sliced loaves.  But today I wanted something a bit different, something from which I could construct a quick, tasty and easy lunch.

We then strolled back to our car and on a wall close by I spotted pretty cyclamen growing …

When we returned home it was almost 2 pm and although we’d had bacon & tomatoes on toast for breakfast (one of our occasional treats for we usually have porridge for breakfast, with golden granulated sugar – just a sprinkle – for husband ,and with golden syrup for myself) we were quite hungry.  And so I sliced the bread and we had that with hummus for myself, chutney for husband, and cheese – St Agur, Somerset Brie, and Gruyere – grapes, strawberries, chunks of cucumber, and a few crisps.

This is the type of meal where I concede that a few crisps are acceptable.  We seldom buy crisps, they are a totally unnecessary snack and usually have too much salt, but in summer it is nice to have  a few with salad or with bread and cheese, as above.    A packet will last us the week.  The black grapes are delicious right now, and the strawberries are the new season’s English strawberries, a little bit more expensive than the Spanish imports but certainly worth it, no hard core to cut away.  We enjoyed our lunch on trays on our knees in the sitting room with the Saturday papers.

This has been a bits & pieces post, nothing much happening but the kind of day we often have, dropping off items at the charity shop, buying a tasty loaf, and enjoying a light, easy lunch.  We enjoyed our stroll around Wellswood – as with the majority of areas of the Bay, it’s hilly, and so our legs got a work out.

Of course, once again no work has been done, but, hey, does it matter? 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 

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After a week filled with fun-things-to-do (lunch on Easter Monday with our family; two visits to the Zoo; meeting a friend for coffee; visiting local garden centres, it was time yesterday for more ordinary things:  supermarket shopping and a visit to the podiatrist. 

Our first port of call was Lidl.  My goodness, how this supermarket has changed since we first started going there, perhaps eight or nine years ago.  I can remember our first visit, it looked more a warehouse than a supermarket, it had no visual appeal whatsoever but we were willing to “give it a go”.  When we walked inside the first aisle was filled as far as the eyes could see with stacked cases of fizzy drinks.  That – or so we thought – set the general tone of the place and husband said, “I don’t think we’ll want anything in here!” He was about to turn around and walk out but I was more optimistic; I said, “We’re here now, we might as well have a look!”

And with that we took a trolley (they didn’t have baskets then, they assumed that their prices were so low you’d want to fill a trolley!) and when we came to the checkout – for we had bought a number of items, “Just to try them …” said husband, much more enthusiastically after he saw the prices! – we were amazed how little we had spent.

Lidl is no longer like that.  It still has excellent prices but it has become a much smarter place, with tall elegant chiller cabinets which wouldn’t look out of place in Waitrose, and with the cabbage and cauliflowers arefresh asparagus and figs.  The only giveaway that this is Lidl are all the ‘dump bins’ which run down the aisles containing all manner of cheap items of clothing, electrical goods and so forth.  Indeed, we’ve bought some items from these bins ourselves and have found 99% of them excellent.  And the first aisle is no longer filled with fizzy drinks but fresh fruit and veg, just as in the mainstream supermarkets.  Seeing fresh lemons as you enter is much more encouraging – for us at least – than plastic bottles of lemonade!

But to return to yesterday ….

We stock up on our cleaning products in Lidl.  Dishwasher tabs, salt and rinse aid; washing machine liquid detergent; foil; loo rolls; kitchen rolls; facial wipes; cotton wool pads (for makeup), even toothbrushes.  My goodness, where else can you find two excellent-quality toothbrushes in a pack for 69p?  We once had an electric toothbrush but we actually prefer manual, and at 69p for two we can renew them often, not because they are like Christmas trees, but because of any build-up of bacteria.  We also buy lovely fresh salmon in Lidl, plus Bellarom Arabica ground coffee, and their excellent nuts – bags of brazils, cashews, and mixed nuts (for nut roast!)

I also bought flowers in Lidl’s – tulips for the sitting room and roses for our bedroom …

 

Just some of the tulips in a large bouquet, the rest are in a vase in the kitchen

From Lidl we went to Waitrose, not that far away.  From perhaps the cheapest store to the most expensive.  Here we buy fresh fruit, veg, meat, and dairy products.  Also, having a My Waitrose card (for those outside the UK, a type of loyalty card) we are entitled to a free newspaper and free cartons of coffee each, so we thought that instead of having our coffee in the supermarket car park, we would buy a round of egg & cress sandwiches and drive to the nearby Cary Park, where we could enjoy our drink and sandwich in the sunshine.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece for the local paper about Torbay’s parks and gardens and this is an extract from that piece:

Cary Park, given to the then St Marychurch Local Board by Robert S Cary, is one of the smaller conservation areas of Torbay, but as we all know, nice things often come in small packages and Cary Park is one of them. Today it is green oasis with an avenue of majestic chestnut trees; it is hard to imagine that before the building of the Parish Church of All Saint’s (built 1868-74) and the inter-war housing developments, this whole area was once simply a large field where, in 1854, crowds gathered to attend the first Torquay horse race and, in 1893, the Devon County Agricultural Association held its 21st meeting.

The chestnut trees are looking lovely right now, with their white ‘candles’ just appearing. 

The park is in three sections, the first being above.  After walking through this section, you reach the second section, just a short distance from the first (between are houses, apartments, and a couple of roads, but even the roads here are elegant and tree-lined.  There are also, opposite the park, tennis courts and a bowling green.)  One white cherry blossom tree was looking spectacular …

 

The second section of the park has a purpose build children’s play area.  I only took a distance shot of this play area, which has lots of lovely things for little ones to clamber over and climb upon.  Again, many lovely trees.  To the left, out of shot, are large apartments for the elderly, and on the right, again out of shot, all-weather tennis courts. 

Once through this second section of park you reach the small third and final section.

All Saint’s Church, Babbacombe

The walk through the park had a purpose, for as well as enjoying a stroll in the spring sunshine; we were on our way to my podiatrist/chiropodist.  I’d not been to her for two years, keeping my feet trim with a battery-operated foot file, but even so, and using a special foot cream every day, there comes a time when my feet need a little rofessional attention.  It was lovely to sit there while my friendly and very professional podiatrist ministered to my feet, and once I’ve painted my toenails with a pretty shell pink polish, my feet will be sandals-ready for summer! 

The podiatrist has her ‘shop’ (a surgery?) in a parade of shops in the village of Babbacombe, and there are some really pretty shops close by, one of them a rather nice baker’s shop with a very attractive window display …

And also a shop selling re-cycled, painted furniture and various items which seem to be on-trend (an awful phrase, I know, but I’m too lazy to think up something better) such as apple boxes, things made from chicken wire and so forth … Perhaps, and because they seem to be everywhere, those old boxes are actually being manufactured from cheap timber and painted to look old?  Whatever, I won’t be buying them. Once something is ‘everywhere’ I certainly don’t want it. 

I apologise for the poor quality of this photo, but the sun was shining on the shop window and therefore making it difficult to photograph items in the window without reflection from cars and passers by. 

While in the waiting area in the podiatrist’s I noticed some shelves where some 2nd hand books were available, not priced, but you could give a donation to a local charity.  I looked along the shelves, several John Grisham, Lee Child, fluffy romances, and I was about to sit down when on the very bottom shelf something caught my eyes …

 

Jean Trumpington was born Jean Alys Campbell-Harris in 1922 into a fairly wealthy family that  lost its money in the stock market crash of 1929.  She was privately educated, left school at 15, and became a land girl in the 2nd World War.  She began her political career in the early 1960s and became Mayor of Camridge in 1971.  In 1980 she was created a life peer, choosing the title of Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich.  She has served in two Conservative governments as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Dept of Health and Social Security and as Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.  You never know where you might find a little gem of a book, do you?  Often in the most unlikely places (furthermore, it’s in mint condition, as if someone has been given it as a present and passed it on right away!)   I am thoroughly enjoying it, a delightful, easy read about a life lived to the full. 

We then returned to our car, retracing our steps through the park, my feet now feeling wonderful, and made our way home. Then began the business of putting all the food away. (I might add that because we were out for quite long time yesterday, visiting both supermarkets and the podiatrist, I took a freezer bag with me for the dairy and meat products, and any frozen items.)

Even though we were only shopping for food and so forth, and visiting my podiatrist, nonetheless it was all enjoyable.  I’ve said before, and I will say it again, we really can’t complain about shopping when our shops are filled with lovely things and, for the most part (if we are careful and don’t overspend) we can afford the things we need. 

Enjoy your weekend.

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I have had another most enjoyable day. 

This morning I met a friend for coffee in what we call our ‘local’.  No, not a pub, but a lovely sea front hotel. 

Photo taken in summer a couple of years ago

My friend had a soya latte decaff and I had a cappuccino.  It was served with biscuits, but we shared the biscuits, each taking two home with us, and then sharing them with our husbands.  Aren’t we kind girlies?  It’s a lovely place to meet, no parking fees, a comfortable lounge or an attractive conservatory in which to sit and chat, and reasonably priced coffee, our kind of place.

When I returned home I heated up chicken curry I had made yesterday, so that was lunch easily dealt with. 

(Photo taken in January, but today’s was a similar chicken curry)

I then suggested to husband why not make use of our newly-acquired Zoo passes, and have a walk around the Zoo  again?  I fully expected him to say, “No, we’ve been once already this week …” but he was quite enthusiastic, and so I changed my town shoes for some boots, easier for walking around a zoo, and off we went. 

As we were approaching our car on our drive, our son, his wife and our little grandson were in their car, just going out.  They stopped to chat (they live only around the corner from us) and they said they were going for a walk around the local farm trail.  When I said we were going to the Zoo (again!) our little grandson said he wanted to go with Granny and Granndad to the Zoo, so they changed their plans and we all went.  We met them there, as we took both cars. 

Paignton Zoo is really quite large and I think you’d have to have a lot more stamina than we have in order to see it all in one day, all 80 acres of it.  And so we decided to see another part today, a different area from where we visited on Tuesday. 

First of all we made for the Reptile House so we could see the ‘crocodiles’ although I think they are actually alligators, dwarf caimans.   This is a large building with quite deep water filled with fish (not sure whether the alligators and caimans eat them, but perhaps they don’t feature on alligator menus? 

I’m not sure whether this chap is a dwarf caiman – he seemed large enough to me.  I would add there is glass between him and me!  Nonetheless, I’ve never been as up close and personal to anything like this before! 

Of course, we found lots of play areas for our little grandson who had a great time.  We also visited the meerkats and there was also a porcupine in their enclosure.

I had seen meerkats before but I had totally forgotten how small they are.  

We did a lot of walking around, up hill and down dale, as it’s a very hilly site. The baboon island was specially constructed many years ago – if you look carefully, you an see the baboons on the rocks.

I think we spent about two hours in the Zoo, and apart from sitting for about 15 minutes at one of the play areas, we were walking all the time.  By the time we returned to the car we were really tired, but in a very pleasant way, having had fresh air and exercise. 

After not having visited the Zoo for at least a decade or more, we have now been twice in two days!  There are so many more animals to see, we will certainly return again before too long. 

The flamingos, taken on my previous visit in June 2006

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